Fear of the fuel bill: nearly half Britons say they’re worried

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Nearly half of people in East England are worried they can’t afford their next fuel bill and one in two say energy bills will put a strain on their finances this year, according to new figures released today from Citizens Advice at the start of its Big Energy Week which will help people save money on their fuel bills.

Big Energy Week, which begins today and runs until Saturday, will see advisers across the region help people spend less on heating and powering their home .

The week is supported by Consumer Focus, Which?, Energy UK, energy companies, charities, accredited switching sites, Ofgem and the Government.

Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy said: “We know hikes in prices have put extra pressure on people’s budgets at a time when money is already tight. Day in day out our bureaux helping people who can’t afford their fuel bills.

“We’re worried that some people are struggling unnecessarily because they’re not on the best deal; live in homes that haemorrhage heat or are not getting all of the financial help available to them.”

Nationally last November eight times as many people came to Citizens Advice for online advice on cutting their fuel bills compared to the previous November. And in 2011 we helped clients with over 96,000 fuel debt problems. The Big Energy Week survey also found that in East England:

l Having the heating on less topped the list of what people are doing to cut energy bills (52%)

l Over a third of people don’t know that energy companies are offering help to insulate their home.

At www.bigenergyweek.org.uk you can get advice on how to cut your fuel bill, helpful contact telephone numbers and links as well as find out what’s happening in your area. You can also contact your local Citizens Advice Bureaux to for energy saving advice – the number will be in the phone book.

Big Energy Week is helping people save money on their bills by encouraging them to:

l Contact your supplier to check you are you are on the best tariff and payment method for you. Monthly direct debit is on average £100 cheaper per year than paying by cash or cheque.

l Visit an accredited switching website to see if you could get your energy cheaper elsewhere. You may be able to save up to £200 off your annual bill by shopping around for a different supplier, particularly if you have never changed energy firm.

l Insulate the walls and the loft of your home and you could save on average around £120 per year. All major gas and electricity suppliers are giving away free or discounted insulation to any household, not just their own customers. Ask if you’re eligible so you don’t miss out. That goes for heating oil customers too.

l Check you are not missing out on any benefits or tax credits that could up your income; your local Citizens Advice Bureaux can help you with this.

l Using less energy could save you money, just by doing simple things like turning off lights and switching appliances off at the wall. Turning your thermostat down 1°C alone could cut your heating bill by £60 on average.

l If you are unable to pay your bills you should contact your energy supplier immediately as they have to help you manage your bills in a way that you can afford.

l If you use heating oil or liquid petroleum gas to heat your home, shop around and compare prices from different oil suppliers. You could also save money by buying in bulk with your neighbours; check if there is an oil club you can join or start one up.

Gillian said: “More and more people are coming to us for advice on how they can save money on their energy bills. Through Big Energy Week we hope to help lots of people cut their fuel bills and ease their money worries.”